Sri Lanka has, as an "unwritten symbol of pride and culture," the world's highest per-capita rate for eye-donation, according to a January Associated Press dispatch from Colombo. Underpinning this national purpose is the country's Buddhist tradition that celebrates afterlives. "He's dead," said a relative of an eye recipient about the donor, "but he's still alive. His eye can still see the world." Doctors even report instances in which Sri Lankans consider giving up an eyeball while still alive, as a measure of virtue. A new state-of-the-art clinic, funded by Singaporean donors, is expected to nearly double Sri Lanka's eyeball exports.
The Way the World Works
• Melissa Torres was a passenger in an April 2011 auto accident in Texas City, Texas, in which the five people involved were reported "uninjured" by police, and indeed, Torres was released from the Mainland Medical Center emergency room after a routine evaluation (for which she was billed $4,850). In fact, records from April 2011 until September showed her balance as $4,850. However, in December, Mainland learned that Torres had made an insurance claim against the driver and settled it for $30,000. The hospital quickly "updated" her balance to $20,211 and filed a claim against the settlement.
• Hospitals, of course, are obligated to render emergency care to anyone who needs it, even to undocumented immigrants and irrespective of ability to pay. However, various state laws, such as New York's, also prohibit hospitals from releasing a patient who has no safe place to be discharged to. A January New York Times report noted that New York City hospitals currently house about 300 of those "continuing care" patients, with many in the five-year-long range and one patient now in his 13th year. (In some states, even, the laws' wording permits "pop drops," in which adult children leave "ailing" parents at a hospital when the children decide they need a break.)
• A November Comtel airlines charter flight from India to Birmingham, England, stopped in Vienna, Austria, to refuel, but the pilots learned that Comtel's account was overdrawn and that the airport required the equivalent of about $31,000 for refueling and take-off charges, and thus, if the passengers were in a hurry, they needed to come up with the cash. After a six-hour standoff, many of the 180 passengers were let off the plane, one by one, to visit an ATM, and eventually a settlement was reached.
• Almost No Longer Weird: (1) Fifteen firefighters on three crews (estimated cost per hour, the equivalent of $1,400) were dispatched to Norwich market in Norwich, England, in January to rescue a gull entangled on tree branches and, according to the animal rescue society, "in distress." (2) Women in Dado village on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao went "on strike" last year to persuade the men to stop their fighting over land disputes. ("If you do bad things," a September Agence France-Presse dispatch quoted one woman, "you will be cut off, here," motioning below her waist.)
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